A 76-year-old woman is under investigation after shooting a black bear that was harassing her neighbour in Sudbury, Ontario, this week. The bear was just one of several black bears that have been plaguing the neighbourhood this summer, eating and lingering in residents’ backyards, seemingly undiscouraged by bear-bangers and warning shotgun shots.
The woman, Bertha Saikkonen, shot the bear after her neighbour, a new mother whose husband was working out of town, came to her for help. Jessica Stoner, the mother of a seven-week-old, told the National Post that the bears were in her backyard at all times of day and night eating acorns from a tree, which caused her to worry about her safety. “I’m at home with a newborn, because my husband works out of town, and what really concerns me is that these bears have no fear,” she said.
After waking up one morning with bears yet again in her yard, Stoner went to Saikkonen to ask for help. Saikkonen’s husband fired a warning shot to scare away the bears, but when one bear wouldn’t leave the yard, Saikkonen took the gun and shot the bear. “I tried the first time and missed, but with the second shot I got him down,” she said. After the shots, neighbours called the police, who charged Saikkonen and her husband with careless use of a firearm and confiscated their guns.
Saikkonen maintains that she and her husband are being unfairly singled out, as other bears have also been recently shot in the area, with no charges laid. She also told the Post that she shot the bear because Stoner was experiencing nightmares and was scared.
According to the Ministry of National Resources and Forestry, landowners have a “legal right to kill a bear in defence of property.” However, bears must be killed humanely, and bylaws around the discharge of firearms must be observed. As well, any bears killed must be reported to the MNRF.
Stoner said she had previously called the MNRF regarding bears in her yard but was told there was nothing they could do. She said she was grateful for her neighbours’ help, adding, “It’s scary when you start getting outnumbered by bears.”
According to Sudbury’s online Report-A-Bear map, there were 192 bear sightings in the area over Labour Day weekend.
Ontario’s Bear Wise program recommends that residents call 911 or local police during “emergency encounters,” which include when a bear enters a school yard, a residence, or stalks people and lingers on a site. During “non-emergency encounters,” residents are told to call the Bear Wise reporting line at 1-866-514-2327. This is recommended for situations like when a bear is roaming around your neighbourhood, digging through garbage cans, or passing through a backyard or field.